No Appeal For Ye: Supreme Court Rejects West’s Claim

The Virginia Supreme Court rejected Kanye West's appeal Thursday. As a result, he won't show up as a candidate on this year's presidential ballot.

By Brian Carlton
September 17, 2020

Justices refuse to hear Kanye’s appeal, arguing that it wouldn’t be appropriate under the circumstances

RICHMOND-Kanye West will not be on Virginia’s presidential ballot this year. The Virginia Supreme Court rejected the rapper’s appeal Thursday afternoon, delivering a very brief ruling. Justices found it was “not appropriate under the circumstances of this case” to alter the injunction handed down earlier this month in Richmond. 

On Sept. 3, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Joi Taylor ruled that West’s campaign acquired most of their elector signatures through “improper, fraudulent and/or misleading means.” In order to be an independent presidential candidate in Virginia, you have to provide multiple documents. First, you need a petition from at least 5,000 registered voters, including 200 signatures from each congressional district. Second, you need signed and notarized “oaths” from 13 electors, residents who promise to cast votes in the Electoral College for the candidate, should they win the state. 

Both Matthan Wilson and Bryan Wright said West’s campaign tricked them into signing the elector’s oath. Neither man intended to vote for Kanye or serve as an elector. One other elector, Samantha Durant, also said the campaign tricked her into signing the form. Wilson and Wright filed a lawsuit, showing the campaign failed to notarize multiple other signatures properly. Judge Taylor agreed, removing the 11 electors from the list. With only two properly signed elector oaths, Kanye at that point no longer qualified as a candidate. As a result, Taylor ordered his name removed from all Virginia ballots. That’s when Kanye appealed. 

Kanye Waited Too Long, State Argued

But even then, there was an odd point of contention between legal teams. State officials, led by Attorney General Mark Herring, questioned why Kanye’s lawyers waited to file.

Typically, legal teams appeal within 24 hours of the original verdict in a case like this. In their appeal, West’s lawyers argued that they couldn’t do that due to the Labor Day holiday. Instead, they “filed a notice of appeal the next business day, on Sept. 8.” However the Virginia Supreme Court was in session on Friday, Sept. 4, as justices met to reject a request by Gov. Ralph Northam to extend the state’s moratorium on eviction proceedings. Staff also appeared to be in, according to the court’s calendar. Herring’s filing points out Kanye’s team could have filed an immediate notice of appeal right after the ruling was handed down Thursday, but they chose not to. They also had an option to ask the court to stay its ruling at the time, but chose not to do that either. 

As a result, all presidential ballots in Virginia had been sent to the printer before the appeal got filed. Dogwood confirmed with the State Board of Elections that all cities and counties submitted their ballots by Sept. 4. 

Lawyers Point to Virginia Code

The reason is that the Virginia Code and federal law both require absentee ballots to be sent to voters no later than 45 days before an election. That means all absentee ballots have to go out no later than Friday, Sept. 18 and even then they’ll barely meet the deadline. Gov. Ralph Northam in a press conference Tuesday confirmed that more than 796,000 state residents already requested an absentee ballot. To put this in perspective, that’s 110,000 more than the final total for 2016. The Dogwood received emails and social media messages from some of these residents, many of whom wanted to know why their ballots hadn’t arrived yet. 

In a statement to media Thursday, Herring again referenced the time issue and said he was happy with the Court’s ruling.

“This case could have thrown the election into chaos, drastically changing the ballot and potentially disenfranchising tens of thousands of Virginians during an election that has brought challenges like none we have ever dealt with before,” Herring said. “Today’s ruling will keep things on track and help to ensure that every single vote is counted in November.”

Absentee ballots go out in Friday’s mail. If you have questions about absentee voting, we can answer those here. As for Kanye’s presidential run, Virginia is the latest state to reject his claim. He also lost bids to appear on ballots in Arizona, Wisconsin, Ohio and Illinois in recent weeks.

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